WARNING: This story contains information about suicide. If you or a loved one is thinking about suicide, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (NSPL) at 1-800-273-8255. The NSPL provides 24-hour, free support to those in distress, as well as prevention and crisis resources for you or loved ones.
The National Park Service has reportedly settled on a design for barriers on the Natchez Trace Bridge after a concerted community effort to help prevent future deaths by suicide at the historic site.
That community effort largely comes from the Natchez Trace Bridge Barrier Coalition, an organization formed in 2018 by Trish Merelo and Sarah Elmer, both of whom lost family members to suicide at the bridge in 2016 and 2015, respectively.
Since its creation, the coalition and its members have been advocating for additional suicide prevention measures at the bridge, and scored a major win in 2019 after $1.2 million was secured for bridge barriers. Later in 2019, emergency call boxes were installed at each end of the bridge.
The news of the selected designs for the new barriers comes by way of the Natchez Trace Bridge Barrier Coalition, who revealed renderings this week of what the final design will look like.
"As we enter the holidays, the season of hope, we want to share some good news; the National Park Service has decided on a design for the permanent suicide prevention barrier," reads a social media post from the coalition.
"Construction is still a couple of years away (hopefully less), as modifying a federally-owned structure like this takes much planning. But progress is being made."
As stated by the coalition, modifications to federal structures is a long and arduous process. Nevertheless, construction on the barriers is still expected to commence sometime in 2023.
With the National Park Service deciding on a design, barriers at the bridge — along with it the potential saving of lives — has gotten one step closer to becoming a reality.